Here in Minnesota, we had our first taste of winter driving a few weeks ago when a surprise dusting of snow fell on warm asphalt and froze, turning the roads into a virtual skating rink. Traffic was snarled and there were cars in the ditch everywhere. It always takes one event like this to remind people how to survive winter driving. Here are a few tips to keep in mind the next time you’re faced with icy roads.
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Replace your wiper blades with winter blades to keep them free of ice.
1. Replace your wiper blades with winter wiper blades. The entire blade is wrapped in a rubber boot that prevents ice and snow from sticking and packing, providing a clearer windshield and better visibility.
2. Buy winter tires for winter driving. They’re designed for better traction on ice and snow. With snow tires, you can stop faster and accelerate more easily, and you won’t get stuck as often. This even applies to you four-wheel-drive owners.
3. Don’t use cruise control. You never know when you’re going to hit a patch of ice, especially on bridges. With cruise on, hitting a patch of ice can throw you into a ditch.
4. Shift your car or truck out of overdrive or economy mode into “drive.” In “drive,” when you let off on the gas, the engine slowdown will act as a brake and help slow the car safely in slippery conditions.
5. Most new cars have antilock brakes that don’t require pumping. In fact, you’ll stop quicker and more safely if you just put steady pressure on the brake and let the antilock mechanism work.
6. Don’t wait until you’re skidding to find out the roads are slick. If you suspect icy conditions, tap the brakes to see how much traction you have. But first make sure no one is directly behind you. If the roads are slick, slow down, increase the distance between you and the car ahead, and keep your eye on the third or fourth car ahead of you to anticipate problems.
— Jeff Gorton, Associate Editor